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I am personally not a stew fan. The guys all love stew and I’ll make it, but I would just as soon make something else for myself rather than eat the stew. It’s nothing personal, I’m told I make good stew, but it just doesn’t hold a whole lot of appeal to me. There are things that are just so much more appetizing. That being said, since yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and since Irish blood does course through these veins and since we don’t eat corned beef and cabbage, I thought I’d make an Irish stew. I looked online for some Irish stew recipes and decided to go with a hybrid of sorts. A total lamb stew, I’m not sure how that would have gone over since we are not super big lamb eaters. An all beef stew, well, I already stated my opinion on that one. So I mixed them together, threw in some stout beer. I bought a single bottle of chocolate stout from a local brewing company since I couldn’t get a single Guinness (and since we don’t drink beer, I refuse to take up refrigerator space with any) and a bottle of red wine. I started this stew at 4 and we ate at 7. So, it really didn’t take very long at all and came out tasting quite good and coming from a non-stew lover, this is really, really high praise.
1 1/2 lbs lamb stew meat cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 lbs beef chuck stew meat cut into bite size pieces
2 T. tomato paste
1 t. sugar
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 bottle chocolate stout beer of your choice
1 c. red wine (I used Shiraz)
4 c. beef broth (I used 1 T beef base with 4 cups water)
3 T. butter
6-7 carrots cut into bite size pieces
6-7 Yukon gold potatoes cut into bite size pieces
1 large onion cut into bite size pieces
2 bay leaves
olive oil for searing
salt and pepper to taste
1. I took the cut up beef and lamb and browned it in the olive oil in my dutch oven. I did the lamb first and then the beef. Removed it to a bowl when each was done.
2. I put the cooked meat back into the pan and added my onion, sauteed for a few minutes.
3. Add stout, red wine, beef broth, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, tomato paste and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cover.
4. In a separate pan, add butter and saute carrots for about 15 minutes. Turn off and leave in pan.
5. Allow meat to simmer, covered, for one hour. Then add potatoes and carrots, season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Allow to cook uncovered at a medium heat for approximately 40 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are cooked through.
Truth can be stranger than any fiction. We were reading an interesting article yesterday about parasitic flies that are eating the brains of Vermont honeybees. These flies, known as phorid flies pierce the abdomen of honeybees and deposit eggs. The fly larvae then consume the insides of the honeybees, turning them into what has been dubbed zombees. These bees exhibit extremely strange behavior such as leaving the hive in the dark and have been seen flying around outdoor lights, where they often are found dead the next day. This is strange with a capital “S” behavior.
There have been a lot of sightings of zombees on the west coast and yesterday we learned that these zombees have been found most recently in Vermont as well. There is a site called www.zombeewatch.org which is attempting to document the presence of these zombees. They are looking for zombee hunters, (a/k/a citizen scientists) so if you’re passion has been to hunt zombies, hunting zombees might be up your alley. There is a tutorial on how to become a zombee hunter on the website, which includes collecting the dead bees that you may find in certain outdoor locations into resealable plastic bags. The guide will instruct you on how to make a light trap to capture zombees and how to contain the dead bees while you wait and then watch the larvae emerge. Since I personally squirm when there are maggots in the summer garbage can, I most definitely can tell you that this is not the project for me; I am sure that those who are of much hardier stock may take some great interest in helping the folks at ZomBeewatch.org document the presence of these infected bees around the country. I mean, how cool it is t be able to say that you are both a citizen scientist and a zombee hunter in the same breath?
- Fall Hive Inspection – Lots of flowers are still in bloom (myhoneybees.wordpress.com)
- Zombees (infocult.typepad.com)
- Saving the honey bee response (ethancallies.wordpress.com)
Today is one of those autumn days when you know that fall has reached its peak. You don’t need a weather forecaster or foliage specialist to let you know that we are on the spiral to winter.
Most of the leaves up on the hill are making their way from their home in the branches to the ground where they create a colorful fall carpet and make the wonderful rustling noises that make you unable to resist dragging your feet through the leaves as you walk along. Today it is raining, off and on, and the leaves are falling from the trees like snow. It won’t be long before the trees up here are bare.
Color is about as good as it is going to get, it is almost bursting with yellows, oranges and reds. The surrounding mountains are speckled with the colors of fall.
Today was a peppery kind of day. I bought a bushel of sweet peppers at the farmer’s market today and combined it with some other delicious pasilla peppers from Alchemy Gardens. I added to that peppers from my CSA at Evening Song Farm and my own poblano peppers. What does one do with all those peppers?
First, I washed seeded and cut up a bunch to freeze for later in the winter, when we need some homegrown peppers. These will remind us of the warm weather when gardening is but a dream.
Then I roasted a whole lot of the peppers. Some of them were fixed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil. We will have these with some homemade bread from the farmer’s market for dinner tonight.
Finally, I took some of the roasted peppers and canned them for use later on, much like you would buy in the store. These will be added to pasta or soup, or some other goodies in the coming weeks.
- Roasted Padron Peppers (cali-zona.com)
- Baked Stuffed Poblano Peppers w/ Mini Ears of Corn with Chili Lime Butter (beatcancer2010.wordpress.com)
- Chile Rellenos (chamoritamommaskitchen.com)
- Anaheim and Poblano Peppers (blogs.mcall.com)
The past couple days the road at the bottom of the hill has been closed due to railroad track repairs. That for us is the easiest and most direct route to Rutland and Ludlow. I have become very accustomed to living here. Driving to get somewhere isn’t really all that big of a deal, however, when a commonly traveled road is closed, it can put a kink in your plans. For instance, one of the boys forgot the other day and for some unknown reason the huge traffic sign indicating that the road was closed from that direction was located about 100 feet from the actual road closure. Not much for notice especially since by that time you have driven the better part of 15 minutes to get to the closed road. Needless to say, he was not a happy boy. Despite attempting to negotiate with the crew working explaining that he lived just on the other side of the closed road, he was forced to turn around drive the 15 minutes down to Route 7 and then into Wallingford and up the other side of the closed road to get home. Not a good time.
As I was driving today, thankfully remembering that the road was closed and actually purposefully driving out of my way in order to go to the post office (which of course happened to be right on the very other side of the road closure) I realized that we do indeed live on a mountain (although we refer to it as a hill) and there aren’t but a few ways to get from one side to the other. Unfortunately, if you are like my son, hopefully you remember before you trek miles essentially on what was for all practical purposes a dead end road and have to turn around.
After traveling to the post office (and double checking that the road was indeed still closed for repairs – because would I have felt stupid if I drove all those extra miles when the road was open) I turned around and cut across the only other way between here and there. In the words of Mr. Frost – the road less traveled (which these past couple days has most likely seen more traffic than normal). It was a very beautiful late summer day.
This afternoon, the sun was perfect and I got out the camera and took these:
It’s hard to believe that there’s one less Heffernan boy in the house this year when school started today, although for him school started a couple days ago. This year, of the two boys still in high school, one is a senior and one is a junior. Hard to believe that they are so grown up. They both departed for school driving their respective vehicles since after school activities and jobs will take them in two different directions at the end of the day.
I have a soft spot in my heart for “back to school”. I’m still a student at heart and the newness of a new school year, the possibilities, the clean slate are all good things. Pair that up with autumn, my favorite time of the year and well, it’s just perfection. I am sure however, that a lot of children, especially my own, probably would beg to differ.
The air is different, there are warm days and cool, crisp nights. There are chilly mornings. The color is coming onto the hill, slow but steady – every day there is more and more of it and September hasn’t even arrived yet and the official start of fall, or end of summer, depending on your perspective, is weeks away.
Have a wonderful day particularly if this is the first day of back to school. Whether you’re celebrating a new school year and all the possibilities that come along with it, or simply rejoicing that the kids are back to school and occupied for the majority of the day – enjoy!
Happy First Day of School from the hill here in Vermont.
I made these peach preserves over the weekend with fresh peaches. Oh my goodness, are they good. I found the recipe here at Natasha’s Kitchen and I suggest that you hop on over there to check it out. I adapted it a bit to add a touch of vanilla (about 1 teaspoon) to the peaches before I jarred them. I had my doubts since the recipe takes a couple days to complete, but it seems that it is well worth the wait.
Anyone who has had a child knows “the bag” the one that sits, at the ready, for days or even weeks waiting for the “big event.” The one that contained symbols of the new roles that husband and wife would be taking on — the first outfit, the knitted hat, the snuggly blanket, as well as all the mom stuff that the new mother would need while she was being overwhelmed by those first hours of motherhood.
Here’s that bag for me.
It’s a great bag that my sister bought for me for the baby shower. It not only still exists but it has taken many journeys with our expanding family over the years. Somehow, it seemed appropriate that the bag that brought everything to the hospital when he was born should be the bag that went with us when we delivered TJ to the next big phase of his life. And so, “the bag” accompanied us to Burlington — a symbol of what had been and what was yet to be.
We were off, truck packed and the five of us enjoying a ride through the mountains to TJ’s new home for the school year. It didn’t take long for us to get him unpacked and for him to turn the contents of those boxes, foot lockers and duffle bags into his new digs. By the time we returned with lunch in hand and perishables for his new fridge, he had transformed the stark space into a very comfy spot, very “TJ”.
Everyone says that saying goodbye and leaving your child at college is hard, but the goodbyes weren’t very different from goodbyes when we’ve dropped the boys off elsewhere. Hugs and small talk. Last minute thoughts, a heartfelt “I love you”. Despite the admonitions from everyone including the parking attendants “Mom, no crying!” when we first pulled in, there were no tears. I am very proud of TJ and all that he has accomplished. He deserved to enjoy that day without a blubbering mom in the background or the foreground and I delivered. What was difficult is the coming home to TJ not being here. When we pulled into the driveway, my thought was “oh TJ’s home” when I saw his truck sitting there…only to realize that “no, he wasn’t home, that’s just his truck”. So, the long and short of it, is while TJ got the “no tear” send-off from his mom, the rest of the family hasn’t been so lucky since we’ve been home.
I’m mopey, I admit it. No one but another mom understands that it’s hard to share your life and for the better part of a year, share your very body with another person occupying the same space without feeling sad that things will never be the same. Will things be different? Yes. Will things be better? Maybe. Will you be proud of your child and their accomplishments? Absolutely.
But your family will never be the same configuration and chemistry and you will never be the same person as you were when you got in the car for that ride to college. We all know it’s coming. It might as well be printed on that bag that accompanies you to the hospital for the birth. It’s implicit in the very definition of parenting. The process of promoting and supporting the physical,emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. From the second we are “officially” parents at the birth, it is a process of independence, of teaching another human being to be self-sufficient and in so doing, tearing yourself away from that person that you have created.
Leaving TJ at the door to his dorm, there was not a cell in my body that wasn’t happy for him and confident that Tom and I had done the best job we could in the preceding 18+ years in preparing him for this next journey. There wasn’t a part of me that wasn’t swelling with pride at the young man he has become. At the same time however, there are just as many cells yearning to freeze time and protect the familiar part of my life. In the days that follow “drop off” there will be adjustment…contrary to the “how to” books, it won’t be so much for the college student as for the college student’s mom.
Try as I might I cannot figure out why over the past several nights I have woken at almost the exact same time 2:15 and been unable to go back to sleep. The first time I blamed caffeine as the culprit but night before last, no caffeine in the picture – I didn’t even have two cups of coffee in the morning! I’m blaming it on hormones I guess since sleep problems do not seem to plague our male counterparts. As I lay in bed tossing and turning, begging for sleep to come alongside me, my husband is sound asleep. It is very frustrating, almost as bad as the sober person around a bunch of drunk folks who are acting incredibly stupid.
After it became apparent that I was definitely, try as I might, not going back to sleep and dawn was now approaching I figured I would get up. I got up, made a crumb cake, made the coffee and then went out for a run (or run/walk as may be more appropriate). There wasn’t a car out on the road while I was out. Here are some pictures from the morning yesterday
TJ leaves on Friday for college. We are in the countdown phase for sure. This past week, the UPS guy and the FedEx guy have been making almost daily stops to our house, delivering in drips and drabs various components of TJ’s new life away from home. Each delivery brings with it another dose of reality that things will be very different around here next week this time. Nonetheless, I am putting on my big girl panties and keeping a brave face. This is not the end, but the beginning.
He will be off to a new adventure for which I hope we have prepared him well. At least, it seems judging by the boxes and foot lockers strewn around the house, he will be well packed.
Sometimes we don’t realize how much we’ve accomplished and for that reason, it’s good to sit back and take stock. We put in a flower bed next to the back patio and stairs off both sets of sliding doors before the July 4th weekend and TJ’s graduation party. I wanted to post some “before” and “after” pictures of how it looked before and after the flower bed, but when I went back through old photos I didn’t realize exactly how much we’ve done to the back of the house where the patio is now as demonstrated by these photos. When we bought the house there used to be on the house which we immediately had to remove to fix a foundation issue in the back.
REALLY, REALLY WAY WAY BEFORE (WE EVEN BOUGHT THE HOUSE):
This door with the windows is long gone and the other jutting section is now my office.
WAY WAY BEFORE (AFTER WE BOUGHT THE HOUSE AND TORE DOWN THE DECK AND BEFORE WE EVEN MOVED UP HERE):
BEFORE (AFTER WE MOVED UP HERE):
AFTER (PRESENT DAY):
Maybe when we’re sitting out there on the patio on a summer evening, we can truly feel a sense of accomplishment after seeing these back to back.